little girl and baby playing on a toki mats play mat with seashells at the beach

6 Outdoor Sensory Activities for Your Baby

April 25, 2022

As spring brings color and warmth outside, it’s the perfect temperature for outdoor play. Not only is fresh air good for your body and mood, but just being outside is a great sensory experience for your baby. When your baby hears the birds chirping high in the trees, feels a cool breeze tickling their skin, and takes in the vivid colors of springtime blooms, these sensations help aid their brain development. In a world that’s still fairly new to them, seeing, smelling, hearing, and touching all these things are exciting and enjoyable. It’s easy to stay cooped up in the house, when feeding, changing, and rocking your baby seems like a never-ending cycle that allows little room for anything else. But, heading outside to the park or even just your backyard for sensory play can provide valuable stimulation for your baby and a much-needed mood boost for you. Here are some simple activities you can do with your baby outdoors that are sure to keep your little one entertained and happy!

1. Use a play mat on the grass

It’s no secret that many babies aren’t huge fans of grass. Can we honestly blame them? They’re brand new humans, and the feeling of grass on their feet (just imagine those tiny, individual blades poking your soles) can be a lot. But, grass is still a great sensory experience that should be offered to your baby! The solution? Use a play mat like this one with a waterproof cover and lay it on top of the grass. Since the cover wipes clean, you won’t have to worry about scrubbing out dirt or grass stains. By laying your baby right at the edge of the mat, you are giving them a safe space where they can explore the grass as much or as little as they’d like. The smell, color, and texture of the grass make for a valuable sensory experience.

baby playing on a toki mats play mat on the grass

2. Get a kiddie pool

If the weather is nice and warm, a kiddie pool with a little bit of water can provide a lot of fun for your little one. Water play is open-ended and sensory-rich, making it a favorite for many parents and children. Fill a small, kiddie pool with some water, and put various items inside. Your baby can sit inside the pool and play with toys or cups in the water. If your baby is a little older, this is also a great way to practice pouring or any other fine motor activities. Never leave your child in the pool unsupervised. Drowning can happen in as little as one or two inches of water, and it often happens silently. Always actively supervise your baby in the water, without any distractions, such as your phone. 

Pro tip: if the weather isn’t warm enough for water play,  you can fill the pool with balls to make your own ball pit!

3. Get messy with finger painting

Why is it that the messiest activities are also the most fun? Finger painting, although messy, is a great way for your baby to explore, learn, and develop through sensory play, and also encourages creativity. If your baby is one whose hands are constantly in their mouth, you can make your own taste-safe finger paint with cornstarch, water, and liquid food coloring. Head outside with your finger paint, some paper, and a waterproof mat (hello, super easy cleanup!) for a messy, good time. 

4. Blow Bubbles

Kids love bubbles, and for good reason! Not only are they pretty to look at, they also provide tactile sensory play when your little one tries to pop them. Your baby may try to “chase” the bubbles, and playing this way encourages them to move and coordinate their body. Spread a large blanket or play mat on the grass to create a soft, comfortable surface, and blow all the bubbles! If your baby is too young to sit up, you can lay them on their back and blow bubbles over them so they can see them floating away. Alternatively, you can place them on their stomach and use the bubbles as a distraction to get in your tummy time minutes. If your baby isn’t a fan of tummy time, this is a great way to keep them entertained while they build the necessary strength in their head and neck (read this blog to learn the importance of tummy time). 

5. Gather Things from Nature

You know when you buy your kid a new toy, but they’re more interested in the box? There’s actually a good lesson to be learned here, and it’s that valuable play doesn’t have to come from store-bought toys! Head outside with your baby and gather natural things like large rocks, sticks, and leaves (both green and dry!). Let your baby explore the textures and shapes of these items with their hands. Hand them the green leaves and let your child feel the smooth, waxy texture. Then give them a dry, brittle leaf and let them feel how it crumbles in their fingers. There are many products that are marketed for sensory play, but there are many equally effective options right in your own backyard!

6. Head to the Beach

If you live somewhere that’s driving distance from the beach, you’re in luck. The beach is a sensory-rich environment that’s perfect for your baby’s cognitive development. Babies are often fascinated by sand, so you can show your little one the difference between dry and wet sand. Show them how dry sand can run through their fingers, and demonstrate how their hands or feet can leave imprints on the wet sand. You can also sift through the beach and find shells together. Just make sure small shells or sand don’t find their way into your baby’s mouth! 

baby laying on a toki mats play mat outside on the grass

When you’re thinking of activities to do with your baby, sometimes less is more. Simply going outside to introduce your baby to nature provides a full sensory experience that greatly benefits their cognitive development. While it might not seem like much to us, small things like light rain, the rustling of wind in the trees, and a squirrel scampering away are delightfully interesting to your baby, who finds excitement in all the small things.

6 Outdoor Sensory Activities for Your Baby

About the Author: Alice

Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.

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